22 Mar The Mouse- Friend or Foe?
When you think of the word mouse, the image of a cute little furry creature might pop into your head; or to some a beady eyed pest. But, if you’re an office worker, you probably are thinking of the small apparatus that the palm of your hand cuddles for several hours per day. Transporting you from page to page, cell to cell, and window to window for what seems to be endless working hours. Clicking, clicking, clicking……dragging, dragging, dragging……
The mouse has been around for more than 50 years now. It was originally designed to replace keying commands on the keyboard. They now are made in all colors, sizes and shapes to suit a variety of users. As someone who makes a living watching people work, the repetitive use of the mouse gives me pause for concern. Is this little, seemingly innocent, electronic device a part of the problem causing so many users to have hand and wrist discomfort?
The data collected by the Active Ergonomic shows that over 27% of assesses reported that they are mousing and keying equally- 11.5% reported that they are mousing more. It appears that many office workers heavily rely on their mouse to perform tasks. Of the almost 7,000 assesses, over 26% report that they are currently experiencing hand and wrist discomfort. These statistics show that there is a high correlation between wrist discomfort and frequently using the mouse.
As I sit and observe employees working, I consistently see the “windshield wiper” wrist action when they are mousing. The hand moves back and forth from the wrist and the wrist is in constant contact with either the hard edge of the desk or a wrist rest on a keyboard tray. This motion, over time, can lead to a repetitive stress injury. The physical stress of moving the wrist back and forth coupled with the contact on the delicate underside of the wrist, overcomes the body’s ability to recover- thus becoming an injury.
So, how can we re-think the use of the mouse and protect ourselves from injury? Firstly, mousing from the elbow can be beneficial. Keeping your arm by your side and elbow stationary and then allowing your forearm to glide from side to side pivoting from the elbow and softly gripping the mouse reduces the fine movement of your wrist. Secondly, slowing down your mouse by adjusting the speed on your computer’s control panel will aid in decreasing hand discomfort. Also, using the arrow keys, tab keys and shortcuts will reduce your need for the mouse. This will also reduce the amount of time that you transition from keys to your mouse and then back to your keys. A comprehensive list of shortcuts can be found on our website at www.actergo.com. Lastly, give yourself a rest break. Try taking micropauses and work breaks. Visit www.wellnomics.com and download a free trial of their Workpace software so you can try doing this easier. Also, incorporating stretching throughout the day can be very beneficial.
I know that the mouse is an important piece of equipment in an office. I’m sure some may even argue that they couldn’t work without it. It can be a convenient way to get from place to place. But, don’t let the convenience compromise your hands and wrists. Be mindful of protecting and resting your hand and wrists and letting your mouse have a break too!
Ergonomic Field Coordinator, CEAS